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    Ireland’s Long Distance Trails

    By Dawn Rainbolt, PR Manager
    More by Dawn

    The Dingle Way

    Why not explore Dingle’s breathtaking scenery? With its ancient neolithic sites, delicious cuisine, traditional Irish music, impressive beaches and colourful Irish characters. It is one of Ireland’s most famous long-distance trails.

    The Dingle Way hugs the coastline of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Technically, the trail begins in Tralee but it can be busy so we recommend starting in Camp.

    Dingle Town is the “cosmopolitan” centre of the peninsula. It is home to some truly great pubs and eateries, and it also has some of the best Irish traditional music in all of Ireland.

    On this trail, you will take in some of Ireland’s most extraordinary beaches. Whether it’s the popular Inch Beach, the quaint Ventry beach, the dramatic Wine Strand or the sandy tombolo of the Maharees. You are spoilt for choice!

    While mostly flat, the route offers the chance to climb at least one mountain as it takes you over the saddle of the remarkable Mount Brandon. Another option is Mount Eagle.

    Stand at the edge of Slea Head, Ireland’s westernmost point, and gaze out at the vast Atlantic.

    Cultural highlights also abound – from the ruins of Minard Castle to the clohans or beehive huts near Slea Head, the Dingle Way offers plenty in the way of ancient sites. Off-trail but nearby is the astounding Galarus Oratory stone church.

    The Details:

    Length: 179 Km / 111 miles long
    Start/Finish: Tralee, though our guided trip hike starts in Camp and finishes in Castlegregory. Drop off point is back to Limerick.
    Highlights: Slea Head, Mt Brandon, Dingle Town, Inch Beach, the Mahrees, ancient archeology, the Gallarus Oratory, Gaeltacht villages, Minard Castle
    Terrain: Some tarmac/road-walking, country lanes, beaches and some off-road trails

    We offer this trip as both a guided small group trip as well as a self guided option. Alternatively, we can run a private guided trip for those who prefer to travel with just their own group.

    Guided Dingle Way    Self Guided Dingle Way

    The Wicklow Way

    Ireland’s premier way-marked trail, the Wicklow Way was established in 1980, designed to take in the very best of Wicklow. This route starts in Dublin, which is convenient for arrivals into the country and is also a great way to soak up a bit of big city culture before heading out into the countryside. (A walking tour of the city is a fab way to get a taste of Dublin, and a nice pre-hike dinner at one of Dublin’s best restaurants is the perfect way to start your trip).

    At 127 kilometres long, the Wicklow Way can be done in five or six days. Enjoy rural pubs and the warm hospitality of the Irish countryside. Visit the iconic Glendalough monastic site, once a great centre of learning in Ireland, to get a taste of medieval life on the Emerald Isle. Visit the lavish Powerscourt Estate and its award-winning gardens – not to mention a huge cascade. Wander the gardens and view the falls and then warm up with a cuppa in the mansion where you can marvel at its elegant decor.

    The trail wanders through some of the quieter sections of the Wicklow Mountains, offering the chance to enjoy Wicklow National Park without the day-trippers. Cast your eyes upon the so-called ‘Guinness Lake’ (named for the family? Or the fact that some say it resembles a pint of the famous drink!), meander through tranquil glacial valleys and lush forests. Head off-trail to hike up additional summits like Djouce Mountain or the iconic conical Sugarloaf. One night, you might even get the chance to stay in a deluxe-grade eco-lodge!

    The Wicklow Way is perfect for those looking for a shorter long distance way, and its starting point in Dublin is convenient.

    The Details:

    Length: 127 km / 78 miles long
    Start: Dublin
    Finish: Clonegal (While technically the trail finishes in Clonegal, our group trip ends at Iron Bridge with an extra excursion to Sugar Loaf and a transfer back to Dublin)
    Terrain: Mostly forest paths, trails, boardwalks and rural laneways
    Highlights: Dublin, Glendalough monastic site and lakes, Powerscourt Estate, gardens and waterfall, Djouce Mountain, Lough Tay, Sugar Loaf Mountain, glacial valleys, forest tracks

    We offer this trip as both a guided small group trip as well as a self guided option. Alternatively, we can run a private guided trip for those who prefer to travel with just their own group.

    Guided Wicklow Way   Self Guided Wicklow Way

    The Causeway Coastal Route

    The Causeway Coast is quite possibly one of Ireland’s most famous spots. The trail hugs the northern coast of the island. Spanning 52 km (33 miles), this route is shorter than either the Dingle or Wicklow ways, but it is just as special.

    The trail technically runs from Belfast to Derry but the really spectacular sections are really along the Antrim coast in the second half of the trip.

    From Game of Thrones to The Chronicles of Narnia, this wild area has inspired many a fantasy film or novel. The Giant’s Causeway itself is home to a vibrant myth involving competitive giants throwing rocks (and insults) across the sea, resulting in a colourful scene in which a quick-thinking giant housewife disguises her husband as a baby to outwit (and scare off) his rival.

    A visit to the wild 40,000 interlocking basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway is by far the highlight of the Causeway Coast, but there are many other stunning sites to behold. Castles like the cliff-top Dunluce Castle or the half-fallen Dunseverick Castle set the scene. The quaint little Ballintoy Harbour or the popular Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge offer variety. Pretty beaches like Portrush and Portstewart (overlooked by the bizarre Mussendun Temple), as well as a host of other cliffs, beaches, and seaside paths, offer scenic coastal views.

    Our favourite part is the walk from Dunseverick Castle to Portballintree (with a detour to visit Bushmills, home to Ireland’s oldest distillery of the same name, for a tour and pick-me-up of delicious whiskey!)

    The Details:

    Length: 52 km / 33 miles long
    Start: Belfast
    Finish: Derry (Our trip only hikes the middle section which is the most wild and beautiful)
    Terrain: Clifftop paths and small coastal roads
    Highlights: Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, Rathlin Island, Portstewart and Portrush beaches, Dunseverick Castle, Bushmill’s Distillery, clifftop views

    Join us on our Hiking the Causeway Coast & Mourne Mountains trip to walk sections of this route.

    Learn More

    The Kerry Way

    The Kerry Way is another of southwest Ireland’s most popular routes. The Kerry Way traverses the Iveragh Peninsula (home to the world-famous Ring of Kerry). Largely following the coast combined with some inland walks, the Kerry Way takes in some of Ireland’s most iconic scenery.

    Most visitors to this region speed by in car or bus, glimpsing the stunning Kerry mountains and coastlines from moving car windows and occasional pauses. The Kerry Way offers a very different experience – hikers who choose to do the entire trail generally take nine days from start to finish, offering ample time to explore this beautiful place.

    The Iveragh Peninsula is home to some of Ireland’s largest peaks, including Carrauntoohil, the island’s highest summit. The Kerry Way does not traverse these peaks – instead, the trail skirts the lower reaches of Kerry’s mountains. While getting hikers off-road, do expect some road walking too.

    The trail passes through a variety of villages and landscapes. Weaving through a few pockets of the Gaeltacht, visitors might be lucky enough to hear the Irish language being spoken. Starting in the busy centre of Killarney, this is your chance to enjoy a variety of pubs, live music and a choice of dozens of restaurants before setting out into the quieter stretches of the peninsula. One such place is the Black Valley, one of the very last places in Ireland to be connected to the electric grid and offering a proper sense of wild places.

    Other towns of note are the lovely town of Kenmare, sitting on the shores of Kenmare Bay, and Sneem (don’t be fooled by its name – it can be a lovely place!). Do know that the way-marked route follows the bay but will also involve some road walking.

    In between, enjoy everything from the crashing waters of Torc Waterfall, open bogland and lush forest paths to lakeside and coastal paths from Killarney’s lakes and Kenmare Bay, beautiful glacial valleys, ruins of historic churches and stone forts, the foothills of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, and views over sites such as Purple Mountain and even out to the Dingle Peninsula.

    The challenge with this route lies in the logistics – there are limited services available along the route, which can be difficult considering the popularity of the Kerry Way.

    The Details:

    Length: 214 km / 133 miles long
    Start/finish: Killarney
    Terrain: Open/woodland paths, small roads, mountain passes, country laneways
    Highlights: Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park, Kenmare, the Black Valley, MacGillycuddy’s Reeks foothills

    More info on the Kerry Way website. 

    While not currently one of our offered trips in its entirety, parts of the route are hiked on our Deluxe Kerry Mountains trip. We can also offer this route as a private tour.

    Learn More

    The Beara Way

    The Beara Way is a trail that follows the contours of the Beara Peninsula in southwest Ireland. It is a 205 kilometre long trail (128 miles) beginning and ending in Glengarriff. Most walkers will take 9 days to complete the circuit but many prefer just to walk one or two sections. There are options to include Bere Island and Dursey Island. The route includes beach walking, coastal roads and way-marked trails.

    Get immersed in the local folklore, like the story of the Hag of Beara, the personification of winter, who has supposedly been turned to stone here in Beara. Learn about the region’s more recent history at Allihies, once a famous mine and follow along a disused mining track before diving back a few thousand years to prehistoric Ireland, viewing stone circles, wedge tombs and ringforts from the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age eras. From tranquil lakes to silent valleys to busy villages, hiking the Beara Way can be a really lovely way to explore southwest Ireland.

    Learn more on Beara Tourism’s site.

    The Details:

    Length: 220 kilometres / 128 miles
    Start: Glengarriff
    Terrain: Country lanes and small roads
    Highlights: Allihies mines, Bronze Age and Iron Age eras forts and monuments, options to walk along Bere Island and Dursey Island, views over Bantry and Kenmare Bays, stone circles like Kenmare, Cashakeelty, Derreenataggart and Ardgroom, Cloonee and Gleninchaquin lakes and waterfall, the Hag of Beara’s stone, Kilcatherine Cemetary, the Healy Pass. There is also the option to bike the route.

    While not currently one of our offered trips in its entirety, we can also offer this route as a private tour guided or self guided.

    The Burren Way

    A little shorter than many of these other way-marked paths, the Burren Way has the distinction of being utterly unique. Running for 114 km (70 miles), the route is generally noted to take five days if walking the whole way. The Burren is a wild lunar landscape of exposed limestone hills and craggy terrain carpeted in a bouquet of wildflowers.

    The Burren Way starts off sweeping hikers along the clifftop paths of the Cliffs of Moher, which is surely the best way to see these mighty cliffs.

    The area is unique and the terrain can be wild though the hills are not high – in fact, the highest “summit” of the Burren Way is just 344 metres. The route is full of natural and cultural wonders. The Burren is home to wildflowers from the Arctic down to the Mediterranean, and the landscape looks like an alien planet, complete with huge boulders that seem to have rolled down the hills. Get into the local culture with ancient hill-forts (‘cahers’), Neolithic tombs, traditional drystone walls lining the lanes, and even a historic lighthouse.

    While not currently one of our offered trips in its entirety, we can also offer this route as a private tour guided or self guided.

    The Details:

    Length: 114 km / 70 miles
    Start: Lehinch or Liscannor
    Finish: Corofin
    Terrain: Country lanes, rocky terrain, cliff-top trails, rural paths
    Highlights: Burren National Park, the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin village, several ringforts and Neolithic sites, the Burren Perfumery, Poulnabrone Tomb (slight detour)

    Or, join our hiking and island hopping trip on the west coast, which hikes through part of the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher.

    Learn More

    There is also the option to hike parts of the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher while on a self drive trip along the west coast of Ireland. 

    Learn More

    The Western Way

    Mam Ean hiking Connemara

    Hiking Connemara - Killary - Mayo

    One of Ireland’s lesser-known long distance trails, the Western Way traverses Connemara and Mayo. Running from the quaint town of Oughterard in Galway through Maum, the Inagh Valley before winding past Killary Harbour, weaving through Killala and terminating in Bunnyconnellan near the Sligo border, this is one of Ireland’s under-rated long distance paths.

    The Western Way crosses through the Nephin Begs, possibly the most remote corner of Ireland. Some of the highlights include Lough Corrib, the ancient pilgrimage route of Maum Éan and its associated sites, the majestic shores of Killary fjord, the foothills of Croagh Patrick mountain – Ireland’s holy mountain, the Sheffrey Hills – one of Ireland’s most overlooked wild places, the buzzing market town of Westport, open bogland, wild mountains, and various historical sites along the way.

    While not currently one of our offered trips in its entirety, we can also offer this route as a private tour guided or self guided.

    The Details:

    Length: About 200 km / 125 miles
    Start: Oughterard, Co Galway
    Finish: Bunnyconnellan near the Sligo border
    Terrain: Country lanes, bogs, trails, rural paths, forest tracks
    Highlights: Mam Ean pilgrimage trail, Connemara, Killary Fjord, Westport town, the foothills of Croagh Patrick mountain, the Sheffrey Hills, Inagh Valley

    Want to know more about the route and terrain of Ireland’s long distance trails? Pick up maps to these regions and more locations and way-marked trails across the UK & Ireland. 

    Check out our trips featuring long distance trails

    Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

    American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.

    View profile More by Dawn


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